Sometimes current events bring the words of Jesus to life, and it happened in an ugly way this week. When a terrorist inspired by radical Islam killed 49 people and shot several others in a gay nightclub, some people bizarrely lashed out at Christians, who were as appalled by the attack as anyone.
One gay rights activist laid the blame for the attack in Orlando, Fla., squarely at the feet of the “Christian right.” Another critic accused religious leaders of “[praying] for people in death that they ridiculed, demeaned and alienated in life.”
As offensive as reactions like these may be, they shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians. Jesus predicted such visceral hostility a long time ago. Right before His betrayal, He gave His apostles a spiritual pep talk that included this dose of realism about the cost of discipleship:
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you (John 15:18-19).
The worldly consensus these days is that homosexuality is an expression of love, gender identity is a choice, and anyone who says otherwise is a hater. It is an intolerant worldview, and it inspires the kind of contempt that Jesus experienced and predicted for His followers.
No one who analyzed the latest terror attack objectively could draw a line between an ISIS admirer and Christians who support bills aimed at protecting religious liberty or keeping men out of women’s bathrooms. But that’s apparently not a big leap in logic for an LGBT activist with an anti-Christian chip on his shoulder.
It is equally weird to think that religious leaders can’t sincerely pray for the innocent victims of a terrorist just because they disagreed with the victims’ lifestyle. Compassion is a core principle of Christianity. It motivates believers not only to try to convert sinners but also to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).
But those principles appear to be in conflict to a cynic who doesn’t embrace them. Or maybe he just can’t imagine anyone praying for his political rivals because he wouldn’t do it for the ones he has ridiculed, demeaned and alienated.
Whatever the reason for the hatred, the challenge for Christians when it inevitably comes is to remember the example of Jesus:
- He didn’t respond in kind – so if you’re feeling the urge to answer that nasty tweet, take a break from social media. Turn your other digital cheek.
- He didn’t attribute to the many the sins of a few – so don’t assume that all homosexuals or LGBT advocates hate Christians because of two trolls.
- And He didn’t lose His focus – so don’t be distracted by the haters.